How to Deal with the 45-Minute Intruder

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The 45-minute intruder is when your baby wakes up 45 minutes into the nap. The 45-minute intruder can be quite stressful for you as a parent. This is true whether your child has always been a 45-minute napper or if your child suddenly started taking short naps at some point. Here are some tips for dealing with the 45-minute intruder.

How to Deal with the 45-Minute Intruder | baby sleep | baby naps | short naps | #babysleep

1-Try to Figure Out “Why”

The first thing to do is to try to figure out why your child is waking after 45 minutes. Knowing why will allow you to address it appropriately. Unfortunately, figuring out why usually involves a lot of trial and error.

How to Deal with the 45-Minute Intruder | baby sleep | baby naps | short naps | #babysleepThe first thing to consider is a growth spurt. You always want to to treat it like a growth spurt first. You want to feed baby when hungry, so make sure baby isn’t hungry before you try other solutions. Growth spurts happen every 3-4 weeks usually, so it is frequently!

If it isn’t hunger, I always consider sickness, pain, or teething next. Trying to address sound or light when it is a sickness or pain will get you know where but feeling guilty when you figure it out. Make it a habit to always consider the possibility of pain or sickness right after you consider hunger.

Another common reason for a baby waking early from a nap is being overly tired. You want to make sure you get that waketime length right. Know your baby’s Optimal Waketime Lengths. And realize that what is optimal at 14 weeks will be different from what was optimal at 10 weeks. This is a constantly moving target. Babies keep you on your toes for…ever basically :). Read up on  The Cornerstone for Good Naps for help on how to get that waketime length right, complete with a nice infographic.

Other common reasons for waking early include learning a new skill, wonder weeks, light, and noise. See a comprehensive list of reasons and what to do about it in my Troubleshooting Naps post.


Read: An Easy Short Nap Fix That Works


2-Know the Sleep Hierarchy

I have sleep hierarchy for different ages. I have different rules I apply based on age. Read more here:

3-Honestly Look at Your Baby’s Self-Soothing Ability

All babies transition at right about 45 minutes into a nap. If your baby can’t put him or herself to sleep alone, then there is a good chance baby will wake from that nap fully at 45 minutes rather than settling back down into sleep for another cycle. For more information, read

What is a Sleep Transition (and How Does It Impact Naps.

If your baby uses some sort of prop to fall asleep, there is a good chance you will encounter a run with the 45-minute intruder. If your baby can’t fall asleep alone, your baby will need your help at that 45-minute mark. This is the time to consider, is it the pacifier? Is it the rocking baby to sleep? Honestly look at your sleep routine and decide if you want to continue it or if you want to try to remove props. People go both ways.

4-Give Baby Time To Go Back To Sleep

When Kaitlyn (my second child) was a baby, I remember one day she woke early and Brayden was in the tub. I got him out as quickly as I could, dried him off, and got him dressed. From the time she started to cry to the time I had him out and ready, it had been ten minutes. And she was done crying and back asleep. That experience along with the years since in having other children besides the baby, have taught me that sometimes if you wait 10-15 minutes, the baby will just go back to sleep. So I make it a policy that if baby sounds okay (and you do get used to knowing what is okay and what isn’t), I let the baby cry for 10 minutes before I get baby. Don’t reply to every sound. You can create a 45 minute waking habit if you respond every time your baby makes a peep.

5-Know You Will Make Mistakes

You are human. You are learning. You will get waketime lengths wrong. You will overstimulate your baby. You will dress your baby to warm or not warm enough. You are going to make mistakes along the way. You won’t ruin your baby for life. So know mistakes are inevitable and don’t beat yourself up about it.

6-Accept and Don’t Stress. Don’t Take It Personally

There are some babies who are 45 minute sleepers. My oldest was quite consistent at the 45 minute nap until he was about 6.5 months old. The best thing to do if you are in a chronic short sleep situation is to accept that it is what it is (while still troubleshooting) and don’t take it personally. See Chronic 45 Minute Naps for more.

Reader Questions

  • I have a question because I am really at a loss. My baby is 20 weeks old. Since about 13 weeks he has consistently been waking up 45 min. into his nap crying. He never cries any other time. I used to use a pacifier for naps only, but in the last week took it away as he was waking up when he lost his pacifier. I have tried shortening his wake time. I have tried everything and I cannot figure out what to do. I would say 2 days out of 7 does he sleep through that 45 minute mark. I really am at a loss. Please help me!!!! I know that he is not ready to get up because if I go in there and help him he goes back to sleep. I have tried CIO, but the only thing it does it get him madder, and madder and he ends up crying the entire rest of his nap. I really don’t know what to do!!!
    June 23, 2008 7:58 AM
    bradysmom said…
    Brady’s mom again. I really dont’ know what to do. He will not nap past 45 min. His last nap he woke up after 30 min. I have tried everything. Now I’m crying all day too. Please – any suggestion would help.
    June 23, 2008 2:08 PM
    Catherine said…
    Hi Bradysmom,I’m sure Valerie will have a great answer for you, but I just wanted you to know that I’ve totally been through the same thing. I feel your pain. One thing that worked well for us was to alternate napping in the crib and the swing. So, if my son had a nap where he woke up early and cried, or never fell asleep, I’d get him up at our 2.5 hr mark and then the next nap I’d put him in the swing from the beginning, and he’d usually fall asleep and stay asleep. Sometimes these little ones just need some help, especially when they become overtired. This wasn’t a permanent solution for us, but it has helped a whole lot. I just thought I’d throw it out there- I felt so badly for you, I know what that’s like. Just know that you will get through it, and you will have a great napper one day!!! It will be worth it!
    June 23, 2008 10:57 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Bradysmom,Know that you are at an age that is hard in general for many many babies. I will link several posts for you at the end. My recomendation would be to do what you can to figure it out, but then just relax and accept it. Just expect the short nap, and any longer nap will be happy for you :). My son took 45 minute naps until he was 6.5 months old. Then he just suddenly started sleeping 2 hours. I have several theories as to why, and those theories are outlined in posts. I have a friend who has a 1 year old who has always taken short naps. This friend really gets the theory of Babywise. She has made a valiant effort to change things. But her daughter still takes short naps. It just is what it is. So relax. You don’t want to turn this into a situation where you won’t enjoy your baby. You only have an only baby once (um, unless you only have one child 🙂 ); really try to enjoy where he is right now.
    Let Your Schedule Serve You, You Don’t Serve Your Schedule
    4 month Sleep Problems
    45 Minute Intruder
    Naps: Troubleshooting
    June 24, 2008 10:38 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Catherine,Thanks for your response! It was also good because I was notified of your comment but no one else’s!
    June 24, 2008 10:41 AM
    Hannah S. said…
    This is a comment for Bradysmom and anyone else dealing with 45 minute naps:I have had the same issues with both of my girls.Just know you aren’t alone and that it is a very commom nap issue. My 1st daugter did this for her whole 1st year. With my 18 wk old I tried cio when she would wake up when she was about 10 wks – and like you ended up crying all day too!So, after trying cio for a couple of weeks and trying to shorten wake times and watching for the perfect moment of sleepy signs, I took Valerie’s advice of accepting it and I was able to enjoy my baby again. Oh happy day! I let a month or so go by and just this past week I tried cio again just to see what would happen and she has done much better at going back to sleep. She has also found her fingers too suck on which helps her. My Dr suggested that napping usually goes better once they are STTN also. I know how hard it is when your friends can’t believe your baby only naps 45 min. when their’s naps 2 hours!! Take heart and enjoy the happy times with your little ones.
    June 26, 2008 10:57 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Thanks Hannah! I have heard of many moms who tried CIO once, no luck, then tried it at an older age with success. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    June 27, 2008 11:17 PM
  • Stephanie said…
    hi, I’m so glad I found this site!!!! My month old son has been a terrible napper for forever. He is on a 3-3.5 hour schedule and usually takes 3 naps. The problem is he can never get past 45 minutes. I have tried to feed him but after two weeks there was no change. I have tried letting him cio but that doesn’t work either. I have tried giving him less wake time and more time but it doesn’t seem to matter. The only thing I have found to work for one of the three naps is if I go in and rock him from anywhere to 5-15 minutes when he wakes up and then he will usually go back to sleep for another 45 minutes to one hour. Is this o.k.? Is there a better way to get him to sleep the whole 1.5 hours?
    August 23, 2008 6:47 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Stephanie, I think that sounds fine for this age. Just watch it to make sure that it doesn’t become a prop for him, but at this point your main goal is to establish metabolism and get good sleep in, so if you need to help him through transitions right now, I would do it.
    August 28, 2008 7:58 AM
  • Jesskarabow said…
    I feel like I’ve done a big no-no. My daughter Kara (7 mos) is a chronic 45 min napper. She’s been like this since birth with the occasional longer nap here and there. About 2 months ago, we noticed that she’ll sleep really long if someone’s holding her or laying with her – I know – BAD!. We started using this as a way to get at least 1 good nap in a day. But realistically, we can’t do this. I can’t sit on the couch or lay in the bed for 3 hours a day. I work 2 days a week, and now I noticed my grandmother is doing the same thing to get a good nap. I know this needs to stop, but she gets so tired. Her schedule is, wake at 6:30-6:45 go down for a nap about 8:30 (I still can’t figure out her sleepy cues consistently – I feel like a terrible mother). So:6:30 – wake8:30-9:15 nap9:15 – 11:00 play in crib/fuss on and off – after about an hour she may fall asleep for another 30 – 45 min – but it’s rare.11:00 – 12:30 eat & waketime – however she gets a little cranky after only an hour because of the 45 min nap.12:30 – 1:15 nap – and then the same as above.3:00 – eat & waketimewe’ve tried to drop the 3rd nap, but unless she’s gotten a good nap (ie: held for 2-3 hours) There’s no way she’ll make it to her 7:30 bed time.6:45 eats – starts bed time routine.As I said in a previous post – she was waking early in the morning – we realized that if she sleeps after 4:45/5:00 she’s be up at 5:15 the next morning. I just feel awful. I know I’ve started a bad habit and need to change that, but letting her sit in there for 1.5 hours makes me feel terrible. And her wake times get so short and unpleasant – I feel like I’m not seeing her happy for very long. She’s a beautiful, charming baby when she’s slept good. What do I do? If I accept the 45 min. nap, how do I keep a decent schedule with out a really cranky baby? I’ve tried to get the naps longer with CIO, paci, no paci, not going in to check, checking every 15 min, temp. humidifier, sound machine. The only thing that does it is holding her. By the way, on Sunday she napped awful before church, after church she fell asleep on the way home in her car seat — we left her in car seat in her room, and she slept for 2.5 hours, we were shocked. What’s up with that? Right now I can hear her — she’s been up in her crib since 9:50. She doesn’t really cry loud, she makes noise and talking, then will fuss for a few minutes (just sounds cranky) then goes back to happy talking. So it’s 10:45 and I think I’ll just get her up, but I know she’ll be miserable in an hour. If she slept for 45 min. and was able to keep a decent schedule & be happy for more than an hour I could just accept the 45 min naps, but that’s not happening. Any advice?
    December 3, 2008 12:42 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Jesskarabow,Have you tried shortening waketime lengths? I think for most 7 month olds, 2 hours is going to be too long–though I am sure it is perfect for some.Don’t worry about dropping the third nap, wait until she is ready. Most don’t drop it until around 8 months, and that is with longer naps. You can also do a weaning process where she takes it some days and not others. One thing, her eating intervals are long. If she wakes at 6:30 (I assume she also eats then), then doesn’t eat again until 11, that is long. At most at this age you want 4 hours, and only if she is ready for that. I personally would get her up after she has been in bed after 1.5 hours if she is awake and not going back to sleep. She is more likely to get sufficiently tired if she has been out of bed for the proper waketime. Be sure to see these posts
    Waketime When They Wake Early
     and Optimal Waketime Lengths
    Does she have reflux? Some babies with reflux will sleep better in a carseat because they are inclined. It is also entire possible that she was really tired and some how soothed through the transition and slept long. Before I started BW with Brayden, he did that often. If she will eat every 3 hours, I think I would try that. You can then have a more successful routine. See also this post: Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle. There is a good chance she just doesn’t know how to soothe herself. Since she will take a good nap with someone helping her, she is capable of taking the long nap but unable of doing it alone. Does she fall asleep on her own well? See also this post:Baby Whisperer: Sleep Transitions
    December 5, 2008 2:35 PM
    Jesskarabow said…
    I’m trying the 3 hour schedule today. The only thing is she’s not really hungry in 3 hours. She had a 6 oz. bottle, cereal and fruit this morning for breakfast, but the next feeding she drank barely 3 oz. I’ll keep it up today. Also for naps that means she’ll be napping at 8:30, 11:30, 2:30 & perhaps 5:30. I don’t know if she can make 3:15 – 7:30 (We’ve keep her up in the past, but she miserable) is that too long for her to be up? But if she sleeps at 5:30 for 45 min. she’ll be really close to her 7:30 bedtime – afraid of her waking at 5:15 again – what would you do?Also, I think there might a self soothing problem also. Is there anyway I can help her learn this? Does the paci hinder her from learning how to self soothe?I can’t thank you enough for your help. What a ministry you have to women all over the world! The Lord is truly using you in a way I’m sure you never imagined :).
    December 9, 2008 8:51 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    You don’t have to feed right after she wakes up–that post outlines that.Since she takes a 45 minute nap, you can still do 4. The goal for that age would be 3 naps (possibly two), but those three naps would be at least 1.5 hours long, with the third perhaps only being 45 mintutes. The paci can hinder the self-soothing process. See the blog label pacifiers. To teach her to self soothe, there are CIO (see the blog label CIO) and also methods by the Baby Whisperer. If you want to do her method, I would recommend getting her book.
    December 15, 2008 2:48 PM
  • JenniferMatt+3 said:
    Plowmanators, you said your son took 45 minute naps until he was 6.5 months old…..can you please tell me how your routine went? How did you do a 3 hr schedule like that?? My son will be 5 months old in 3 days….he has always taken 45 minute naps! I have had a hard time trying to stick to a 3 hr schedule, it’s more like a patters than a schedule! I need a schedule, I have 2 other children in school, and I feel as though I don’t have very much time for them right now….this has been very hard and exhausting for our whole family! I am praying the Lord will allow him to sleep better soon, or at least eventually! I am trying to enjoy my precious baby during this time, but it has been a really trying time for me. I will appreciate any advice you may have.
    Plowmanators said:
    We kept a 2.5 hour schedule for a long time because of it. Eventually, he was up for two hours then slept for about one hour. Be sure you are offering him as much consistency as possible. Also, be sure he isn’t up too long. He likely can only be up anywhere from 1-1.5 hours at a time.Also, be sure he doesn’t have a medical condition like reflux. If so, see the label “reflux.”I have a post titled, “Getting a Consistent Schedule” That should help. Good luck 🙂
  • Sarah Brinkman said:
    Hi There-My 10 week old daughter is totally in this 45 minute nap thing, Im pretty sure that this has been a problem since birth! Although I cant really remember, its been such a blur :)Anyways, some days she naps great, 1.5 to 2 hour naps. I have her on a 2.5 to 3 hr schedule. I always put her down awake and drowsy and most days she cries a bit and goes down, other days are worse. My question is not about that however. I would say that at least 3 naps a day she wakes at almost exactly 45 minutes, This is after she has put her self to sleep. I always let her cry for atleast 25 minutes after she has woken up from a 45 minute nap to see if she will go back to sleep. Most of the time she wont, if she wakes up early, thats that. If I then put her in her swing, she usually goes back to sleep. Today she fed at 6:30, down by 7:35( didnt make a peep falling asleep), woke at 8:10. I let her cry it out til 8:40 to no avail. Got her up put her in her swing and she fell back to sleep til her 9:30 feeding. Now I could have fed her at 9, the 2.5 mark, but I knew she wasnt ready. She can totally make it most times to the 3 hour mark, I can tell she isnt waking out of hunger. I dont know what to do. When do I need to worry about creating a bad habit with the swing? It really worries me that I am! If I use the swing to get her to the 3 hour mark after the 45 minute intruder am I creating a bad habit? Like I said, some naps are fine, others not good at all…Thanks-sarah
    Plowmanators said:
    There is no way to know for sure when the swing will become a prop and it will depend on baby a lot. I would try shortening her waketime a bit. At her age, early waking is often due to either hunger or overstimulation. Since you are positive she isn’t hungry, I would take her waketime back to somewhere between 50-60 minutes. You have to be pretty particular to the minute with babies this young. I would look at the optimal waketime blog label for more guidance on this.
  • Amy said:
    I have a different cause of the 45 minute intruder and haven’t been able to locate anything about it in posts. My son is about 7 weeks old and for about a week now wakes up almost every nap at 45 minutes during the day because he has pooped. Since he got the first 45 minutes he wont go back to sleep. He isn’t hungry enough yet to eat either, but by the time he is tired again he is starting to get hungry so he wont sleep again and if he will eat, he just falls asleep a few minutes in. I’ve tried changing him and letting him cio after but he just ends up crying until the next feeding time. Is there anything I can do?
    Plowmanators said:
    Oh Amy that is frustrating! Do you breastfeed? If so, there might be something you are eating that could cause bowel movements. This often happens when babies start solids, and you can help it by what you feed them when. If it isn’t anything you are eating, all you can do is wait for him to regulate. My guess is that he is waking up at his transition point, then pooping because he is awake. I would bet he isn’t waking up because he pooped in his sleep, but that he is waking up and then poops. So you might be able to apply 45 minute intruder issues to him as well.
  • Natalie said:
    First, I want to thank you for your blog and your hard work on it. It must be lots of work to keep up with all the responses and posts. It’s been my daily companion these past few weeks. I have an almost 8 week old baby. We’ve been doing the wake, eat, play routine since we’ve brought him home from the hospital. He has no medical issues (reflux…etc) that we know of and he’s a big boy – nearly 12 pounds at 8 weeks. In the past few weeks we’ve noticed his sleeping habits getting worse and worse. We’ve been adamant about putting him down in his crib for naps from the very beginning but all of a sudden, he won’t sleep in his crib any longer. He will just lay there awake, most of the time not crying, but he’s getting very little daytime sleep because of it. I’ve tried lengthening his wake time since he doesn’t appear to be tired once we put him in his crib. I’ve tried shortening it, and I get the same response with both – no sleep. I know he’s tired because when I take him out of the crib after an hour to preserve the nap, he’ll fall right asleep in the swing. He sleeps ok at night (always in his crib) – usually from 11 pm – 4 am, and then again from 4 am -7:30 am (desired wake time is 8 am). He usually will NEVER sleep from 8 pm -11 pm, so I don’t know if his 5 pm nap is taking from his night time sleep or if this is his “witching hour”. I’m just at a loss. Right now we’ve been keeping his wake time anywhere from 45 mins-1 hour including feeding, changing…etc. I don’t know if he’s overstimulated or overtired or not stimulated enough. I don’t know if I should move to a 2.5 hour routine or just keep at this 3 hour and hope it improves. Any suggestions?
    Plowmanators said: Natalie, I am not sure–it sounds like you have tried many of the usual thingss. I would wonder if he needs to be swaddled if not?I would lean toward him needing a longer waketime length and/or more stimulation.
  • Trisha said: I don’t know if this is the right place to post this, but I have a question. My son is 12 weeks old and is on a 3 hour schedule. He is sleeping well through the night with a dreamfeed at 10, which he sleeps through, and up at 4-4:30 to eat. Then up at 7. I hear him stir sometimes in the night but he usually falls back to sleep on his own no problem. During the day however is a different story entirely. For his naps, he only sleeps 30-45 minutes (4 naps a day) and then he wakes up fussing. I would let him cry, (sometimes the whole rest of his nap) and he just won’t fall back to sleep. Because of this I was having him take two of his naps in the Moby Wrap, which worked, but I can’t keep doing that or I get nothing done. Plus I don’t want him to get too used to that and cause more harm. He isn’t hungry when I get him up (he’s actually happy once I pick him up and play with him a little), but thought maybe his belly wasn’t quite full enough to have him go back to sleep, so the past few days, I’ve tried waking/getting him up 15 minutes before it’s time to feed him, then putting him down 15 minutes early (1 hr 15 minute wake time). This seemed to work the first day. He’d still wake up after 45 minutes but would fuss for a few minutes and then be quiet for 5-10, then fuss a few minutes, and quiet for 5-10. This would continue for a half hour and then he finally fell back to sleep for another 20-30 minutes till I had to wake him again. The second day however, he would just continue the fussing/quiet every few minutes. Never really cried hard but didn’t fall back to sleep. I just don’t understand why he can soothe himself back to sleep during the night, but not during the day… I even have blankets over the windows to make it dark. I have tried playing around with his waketime too. If it’s shorter, he doesn’t act tired at all, and usually will just lay in bed talking to himself. Plus I feel like he’s never awake if it’s much shorter! If it’s longer, when he wakes up at the 45 minute mark, he screams rather than just fuss. He falls asleep fine on his own, just can’t stay asleep. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
  • Plowmanators said: Trisha, At that age, I would wonder if it could be a growth spurt. I would check that. Do you swaddle? If not, that might help. If so, it might be time to wean from it.
  • Jill Daniels said:
    I love this blog! I have a little one that just turned 3 months today! Three weeks ago he started to have 45 min naos. I’ve tried a lot of different things. I’ve tried putting him down earlier and that hasn’t helped. I’m not sure if maybe he’s teething or has reflux issues? Or maybe I have a low supply? He wakes from his naps talking to himself until I get to him and takes a full feeding. He usually still sleeps 10 hrs at night as well. Any suggestions on how to get him to take longer naps?
    Babywise Mom said: I would guess growth spurt with the full feeding. The only weird thing is the 3 weeks. If you have fed a full feeding each time he has woken, then I would wonder about supply. If you haven’t fed full feed each time, I would say growth spurt and feed a full feeding for a while. If he has reflux, it can definitely be that. If he is medicated, see if he needs his dose increased.

Click on the image to read more:

 Common reasons for poor sleep
 Sleep disruptions you will face as a baby wise mom
 What to do when your baby is taking short naps
 What is a sleep transition and how does it impact naps?
 Surviving 45 Minute Naps
 The Babywise Mom Book of Naps

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